Why form an Ethical Landlords Association?
Ethical Landlords Association is a body for residential landlords in England, Scotland and Wales who recognise that they have a responsibility as an owner of someone else’s home as well as a need for a return on their investment.
We never forget the fact that our investment is meeting a human need – providing homes for individuals and families.
Home is part of a person’s identity – the location, the size, the condition, the neighbourhood all contribute to one’s place in the community. It follows that an investment in providing a home is not the same as an investment in shares, or in a manufactured product, or in other services. It creates a greater responsibility towards the end-user than in these cases.
We are landlords ourselves, so we know well enough that being a landlord is hard work, and financially risky. We know that tenants are far from perfect and that properties need upkeep, often beyond what has been budgeted.
But we recognise too that our property investment is worthless without tenants to provide a return on it, and that the desperation of so many in the current market is no reason to exploit them.
We believe that both landlord and tenant have a mutual interest in creating a home based on stable tenancy and a partnership between the landlord and the tenant. Such a partnership has an imbalance of power, since ultimately the tenant can become homeless as a result of a dispute. Nevertheless, our key founding principle for being landlords is one in which tenants are respected. We believe that mere compliance with the legal minimum standards expected of landlords should not be confused with best practice.
There are an estimated two million private landlords in Britain: we believe the majority share the values that we are articulating, and our aim is to establish a framework for promoting these values in practice.
Our first step has been to produce a set of standards for ethical landlords, at different levels – bronze, silver and gold – and we invite our members to work towards these as a matter of professional practice. In time, we plan to produce a set of resources to support and advise our members in maintaining and developing these standards.
By modelling the practice we believe in, we hope to improve the market as a whole, and that in time, accreditation by the ELA will put a landlord at a competitive advantage.
We are aware that ethics is not an exact science: we are setting ourselves up for criticism for failing in our own ambition. Our standards focus on those things that tenants value: security of tenure; repairs carried out promptly and to a high standard; not being faced with unexpected charges, particularly for matters of administration; involvement in the decisions made about their home.
We see a parallel between our work and that of the movements for fair trade and the living wage, which recognise that the operation of the market leads to imbalances and unfairness. These can be mitigated by legislation and regulation; but also by groups of individuals who can envision a better way, and work to make it happen.